The most satisfying sequels are often the ones you don't expect. Every franchise suffers through its doldrums, perhaps because of a string of disappointing releases or an extended period of dormancy. In either case, the following 17 games bucked tradition to revive our favorite marques in gaming. While some of these entries simply recaptured the glory of the originals we enjoyed so much, others completely changed the direction of their respective series, implementing ideas lifted from other genres and, in some cases, rival titles. Whatever path they chose to take to arrive there, these games represent the greatest comeback stories in the history of the medium.
After years of increasingly over-the-top action installments, Resident Evil 7 finally put the "horror" back in Capcom's beloved survival horror series. A bleak first-person adventure set in a dilapidated Louisiana farmhouse, Resident Evil 7 channels the exploration, puzzle solving and chilling tension of the original game, but from a brand-new perspective that's especially frightening in VR. It's the biggest reinvention of the franchise since 2005's Resident Evil 4 and establishes a new template for immersion and terror that we can't wait to see further explored in the upcoming Resident Evil 2 remake. — Mike Andronico
After Sonic the Hedgehog 2006, faith in the Sonic brand was shaken. Could the Sonic Team develop a technically sound product devoid of interspecies romances, game-breaking glitches and a general sense of "It's no use"? The answer, as Sonic Unleashed showed us, was a resounding yes.
While divisive for its inclusion of the werehog — a character whose existence turned off a lot of people to the game — no one can deny that Sonic Unleashed was a gorgeous, technological tour de force that, for the most part, reinvigorated the brand with its bold presentation and revolutionary 3D boost gameplay. Sonic Unleashed took the boost formula to new heights and invented the mach-speed platforming experience we've all come to love in modern Sonic games. However, Unleashed didn't stop there. It gave us a globe-trotting adventure with a rich, fully realized story that took gamers all over the world, allowing players to tour beautifully reimagined versions of China, Italy, Indonesia and more as the blue hedgehog whipped past every major region on earth. To this day, we've yet to receive another adventure from Sega that's as grand or as glorious as Sonic Unleashed.— Robert Carnevale
Mega Man 8 came out in 1996, and the series "ended" with a whimper, not a bang. While the game looked gorgeous, the gameplay felt limp, and the cheesy cutscenes made the story beyond laughable. Fans had to wait 12 years for a balm, but their patience paid off. Mega Man 9 returned the series to its retro roots, with 8-bit-style graphics, a chiptune soundtrack and simple (but not easy) platforming that favored precision over reflex. The game does have a few concessions to modernity, though, including an item shop between stages and downloadable challenge levels. Mega Man 9 is also notable for having the first female Robot Master boss in the series: Splash Woman. — Marshall Honorof
The mid 2000s were a dark time for fighting games. Major new releases were few and far between, and Capcom's cult favorite Street Fighter III series just wasn't catching on like its predecessors did. Then, Street Fighter IV came along and changed everything.
This 2008 brawler took the series back to basics, reviving the iconic cast of Street Fighter II while adding a few fresh faces, a more accessible combat system and a colorful 2.5D art style. SFIV not only put Street Fighter on the map again but also spurred a new golden age for fighting games with similarly successful reboots of such franchises as Mortal Kombat and Marvel vs. Capcom, while helping propel the genre from a niche hobby to a global esport. — Mike Andronico
Back in 2006, Tomb Raider attempted its first reboot, with the pretty decent Tomb Raider: Legend. There was nothing wrong with Legend or its two sequels, but they were more of what fans expected: Lara Croft being a cool, experienced treasure hunter. Tomb Raider (2013) went back to the drawing board and presented a new take on Lara and her world. This time, she was a young archaeology student, just learning how to survive for the first time. Whether she was bandaging her wounds, setting up camp or taking a life, Lara's experience was harrowing and frightening — and on top of all that, there was still an ancient mystery to solve and a modern conspiracy to thwart. — Marshall Honorof
Credit: Square Enix
Considering the (literal) development hell that Bethesda's Doom reboot went through, it's amazing that the game even came out — and a miracle that it became one of the best shooters of this generation. In the wake of 2004's meh Doom 3 and a tumultuous eight-year development cycle, Doom 2016 came out of the gate swinging as a brutally fast and fluid demon-slaying simulator that evoked the same visceral thrills as the original Doom, while propelling the series in exciting new directions. We can't wait to see where id Software takes things next with Doom Eternal. — Mike Andronico
Even though Max Payne 2 was an absolute masterwork of action/adventure film noir tribute, not that many people actually bought it. That was that, until nine years later, when Max Payne 3 came out. Ditching the hardboiled New York City setting, the action this time took place in the jungles, favelas and office buildings of Brazil, where Max — having hit rock bottom, even by his standards — wanted to put the pain of his previous adventures behind him once and for all. As in previous entries, the frenetic gunplay and ridiculously stylish bullet-time mechanics made Max Payne 3 into a compulsively playable shooter, complete with a story that ran the gamut from "ridiculously over the top" to "surprisingly affecting." — Marshall Honorof